“We can treat ourselves a little conservatively if that’s the route we choose to do. We may just ride flat out.”
Great Britain team pursuit coach Dan Hunt speaking to journalists following Geraint Thomas, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh’s show of strength in qualifying for the Team Pursuit. The squad were head and shoulders above the opposition in Thursday afternoon’s qualifying session, posting a beguilingly smooth 3:52.499, over three seconds ahead of their nearest rivals Australia.
However, Hunt, in the post ride press call, was confident that his team could improve as the competition progresses:
“When you’ve got four blokes rattling around the track that quick, there’s always things that you’ll improve I think. We just came off it a touch in the last lap and a half – we need to look at why.”
When asked if the team were going flat out for qualification, Hunt described the nuances that define a world record ride: “It was hard controlled – that’s what team pursuiting is – you can’t really go ragged – if you go ragged you go slow.
“Smooth is fast so we went out to ride fast but smooth. We could have gone faster in the opening kilo but we would have come off it – we pitched it about right.”
For Hunt and the team, thanks to hundreds of hours of preparation, on and off the track, the ability to ‘pitch it about right’ means breaking world records is part of the plan – as Hunt’s line walking on Thursday illustrated: “I walked world record and they were a little bit up on it, which was sort of the plan.”
Asked where the improvement could come from, Hunt homed in on that crucial final kilometre, where so many teams crumble: “It’s always in the last K that you come apart – we knew that it [the world record] was on – the key thing is that’s just one ride out of three. All we’ve done here is state our intent – that’s all. I think we can go quicker.”
As the competition moves into the phase where two teams are on the track, aerodynamic and psychological effects come into play and Hunt predicts this means even more astonishing times for the team and the competition as a whole:
“It’s a massive difference – these guys are racers – plus the fact that you’ve got the team in front causing circulating air so most teams ride quicker with two teams on the track.”
However coming off the back of a barnstorming qualifier, the Great Britain pursuit coach is keen to keep to the plan to ensure a berth in the final: “All were going to do is ride a good race, stay on schedule and try and do as little damage in the first round because we’ve got the finals an hour and twenty minutes after that.”
Moving into the 1st round of the competition, Great Britain have the option of swapping Andy Tennant into the mix and with the 1st round and finals so close together, this may yet materialise:
“It’s a distinct possibility,” said Hunt. If Andy was going to get a ride it’s more than likely that he’ll ride first round rather than bring him in fresh for the final but we just need to go back and crunch all of the numbers a bit.”
Hunt’s confidence in his team and their ability was obvious following their world record ride. However the coach revealed that inevitably and occasion like this is not without its nerves:
“Not nerves because what was going to happen to us,” revealed Hunt, “But because I knew what we had in us – it was a case of ‘are we going to get this out’ and are we going to do ourselves justice. They know what they’re doing. I know what I’m doing – we know our jobs.”